The Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh has said that the Western Ghat has to be made an ``ecologically sensitive zone’’ since it is as important as the ecological system of the Himalayas for the protection of environment and climate of the country.

Addressing media persons on the sidelines of the inauguration of the national seminar organized as part of the silver jubilee celebration of the Silent Valley National Park at Mundur near here on Saturday the Minister said that the ``Central government will not give sanction for mining and hydroelectric projects proposed by the State Governments of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa that will destroy the Western Ghat eco-system.’’

He said that the Karnataka Chief Minister had laid the foundation stone for 440 MW hydel project at Gundia without getting the environment clearance from the Central government. The project will destroy 1900 acres of forest and create many ecological problems in the area. Hence the Centre will not give sanction for the Gundia hydel project’’, the Minister asserted.

He said that the Government will consider giving financial incentives to the States that protect the forest and bring more areas under forest cover. The 13th Finance Commission is examining this issue. Once their report is submitted in January 2010 the Central government will consider providing dividend to those States who take steps to protect the forest and environment. The States like Kerala had made such a request to the Centre, he said.

The Minister said that a Japan-aided Rs.225 crore scheme to provide infrastructure facilities to the State Forest Departments and training to the forest staff will be implemented in the next five years. Ten States including Kerala will be provided grant for infrastructure and training to the Forest Department and its staff under the scheme. Though this amount is taken as a loan by the Central government the State will get financial assistance from it as grant, he said.

Answering a question on the demands of environmentalists that the newly declared 148 sq. kms. buffer zone of Silent Valley to be made part of the Park the Union Minister said that if the Kerala government put up such a proposal the Union government will consider it as it wanted full protection of the unique Silent Valley forests.

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